Baker Mayfield isn’t campaigning for Lincoln Riley.
The rookie quarterback isn’t dismissing the possibility his former coach joins him in Cleveland either.
Mayfield said Wednesday that he believes Riley is prepared to move from Oklahoma into the NFL, but he would also understand if the 35-year-old wants to remain at one of college football’s most successful programs.
“Lincoln’s been ready, it’s just who he is and how he coaches and the respect level he’s had from all of his players, how detailed he is,” Mayfield said. “Yeah, he’s ready but that’s his decision and you know what, he’s got something special there, so I don’t think anybody is going to blame him if he stays there for the next 20 years.”
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Riley has been linked as a possible candidate to be Cleveland’s next coach because of his obvious connection with Mayfield, who won the Heisman Trophy last season in Riley’s first year at the Big 12 power.
Mayfield was asked directly if he wants Riley to come to Cleveland.
“I have a relationship with Lincoln,” Mayfield. “He’s been great and we had success, but whatever decision is made here I’m going to make the most of it. Obviously, there’s been a level of comfort with him in the past that I’ve had. But whatever happens, happens. And you know what, you can’t control that so I’m not going to worry about it.”
Mayfield also doesn’t know if Riley is itching to go pro.
“I think down the road probably,” he said. “Right now I’m not going to speak for him, but he’s ready whenever that time comes.”
The Browns fired Hue Jackson in October, and general manager John Dorsey is in the early stages of a coaching search that will accelerate once the season ends. Interim coach Gregg Williams will interview for the job, and it’s likely that Dorsey will meet with former Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who was dismissed after Sunday’s loss to Arizona.
Dorsey and McCarthy worked together in Green Bay.
Riley’s appeal to the Browns could stretch beyond his strong ties to Mayfield. He’s regarded as one of the game’s best offensive minds, and Mayfield has little doubt Riley has the right attributes to lead professional players.
“After being here, it’s about respect,” Mayfield said. “You get a locker room full of guys that are making a lot of money, obviously the egos are going to be there. You have to have the respect in guys. You have to be able to get the best out of them even when they’re going to get paid regardless. So you’ve got to be able to get the most out of them and demand it, just by respect and so when it comes down to it, that’s why I would say he’s a great coach.”
Mayfield said his admiration for Riley extends way outside his ability to diagram a play or devise a game plan.
“Some of those coaches that are so successful, they have the standard and they live by — that standard every day,” Mayfield said. “He does it with football, family and he’s just a great human being. He wants the best for everybody and he’s always encouraging. He will wrap his arm around somebody, talk to them and help them out no matter what it is.”
Riley, who is 24-3 in two seasons with the Sooners, has downplayed any interest in leaving Oklahoma, which signed him to a five-year, $25 million contract last summer. After Jackson was fired, Riley anticipated questions about going to Cleveland.
“The truth for me is, I love Oklahoma,” he said. “I love coaching here. I love college football. I certainly don’t have that itch right now. I don’t know if I ever will.”
That won’t stop the speculation about Riley, which has been fueled by Dorsey’s appearance at Oklahoma’s past two games.
Mayfield said Dorsey is close with Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione, and joked that he’s not putting any more into the visits.
“I’ve definitely known about it,” Mayfield said. “He’s given me a hard time, but he’s gone and there’s been two wins. That’s all I know. Who knows what he’s doing down there.”
NOTES: Browns practice squad DL Daniel Ekuale was suspended without pay for four games for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancers. His suspension begins immediately. … Mayfield said his Heisman Trophy sits on his parent’s dining room table at home and his dad “uses it as a paper holder and he tips his coffee to it every morning.”